Indian track and field athlete OP Jaisha was part of the 119-strong contingent that went to the now-concluded Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Taking part in the women’s marathon, the 33-year-old ran the entire race without getting any water from Indian officials, and expectedly fainted at the finish line.
As per Olympic rules, countries are supposed to provide refueling stations for their athletes at regular intervals of 2.5km. While India’s workstations had been erected, the officials manning them were nowhere to be found, meaning that the only way the marathoner had access to water was at the Rio official refueling centers. Those were located every 8km, which meant she would have had only five chances to hydrate and reenergize through the 42.195 km track.
This reflected clearly in her performance – the runner, who set a time of 2:34.43 at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing last year, finished 13 minutes past that mark in Rio, at 2:47:19.
Jaisha collapsed at the finish line, and lay unconscious for 3 hours. Even at the end of the race she was taken off by Rio medical officials, with Indian officials unavailable to know of her condition or attend to her.
Speaking to Sportskeeda, Jaisha said, “I don't know how I managed to finish the race in the first place. I should have gotten water more often, all countries had stations every 2.5 kms to prevent burnout. No one was there from India." It should be noted that all other countries’ runners had water and energy gels provided to them at regular intervals.
“This is why my timing was so much slower,” she added.
It will be a relatively long period of recovery for the athlete, who will be out of comission for what appears to be the remainder of the year. “Even now, I’m feeling very weak," she said. “For two days after the incident, I could not even move from my bed. It was really difficult.”
Jaisha has consulted with her medical team, who have advised her rest for the next three months.
Much has been written about negligence by the authorities causing Indian athletes severe hardship in their entryway to sport. But this time, the negligence has also resulted in severely hampering the athlete’s event and her health. When will things improve?